Wednesday, April 13: Heading for the Amazon

We got up early and had a chance to look around at the Termas de Papallacta resort. The resort is in a valley surrounded by high mountains. After breakfast we set off.

Main entrance to the resort
Main entrance to the resort
Thermal pool outside our room
Thermal pool outside our room
Mountains around the resort
Mountains around the resort

As we drove along we caught a glimpse of one of Ecuador’s few snow capped peaks, rushing streams carrying water from the recent rains, and cows grazing on incredibly steep pastures.

Snow-capped peak
Snow-capped peak
Rushing stream
Rushing stream
Cows on steep pasture
Cows on steep pasture

All of a sudden traffic stopped. There was a one-lane bridge over a river and traffic from both directions was stopped as welders repaired the bridge. Our bus pulled into a service station to wait for the hour or so we were delayed. As we killed time we examined the area around the filling station.

Traffic backup
Traffic backup
Service station where we waited
Service station where we waited
Clown trash cans
Clown trash cans
Cowboys herding cattle on slopes
Cowboys herding cattle on slopes
Shrine at service station
Shrine at service station
Moth on bush nearby
Moth on bush nearby

After about an hour traffic got moving again. As we approached the bridge we passed a Narcotics Inspection Station with numerous narcotics police officers directing traffic. The one lane bridge over the river was rather narrow.

Narcotics inspection station One-lane bridge over this river

Oil pipeline along highway
An oil pipeline paralleled the first stretch of highway. This pipeline carries oil from the well in the Amazon basin to the coast of Ecuador. There are large reserves of oil under some of the most pristine rainforests of Ecuador. Exploiting this oil will probably result in this section of rainforest. Since this is a major area of biodiversity, Ecuador is asking the world community to contribute 50% of the revenues Ecuador would receive from exploiting this oil in return for protecting this rainforest ecosystem. This offer expires at the end of the year and, so far, few countries have signed onto an agreement.

As we drove through the area it was obvious that farmers were cultivating the slopes of the mountains as high up as possible. In one village this statue of a farmer and his horse indicates the way these slopes are cultivated. At one point a pair of llamas scurried off the road out of the way of our bus.

Cultivating high mountain slopes
Cultivating high mountain slopes
Horsepower for cultivation
Horsepower for cultivation
Two llamas beside the road
Two llamas beside the road

We finally reached La Punta Ahuano on banks of the Napo River. We took the things we would need for the next two days and left the rest of the luggage on the bus. We then donned life jackets and boarded canoes for the trip to the jungle lodge.

Unloading the bus at La Punta Ahuano
Unloading the bus at La Punta Ahuano
Donning life jackets
Donning life jackets
Riding the canoes to the lodge
Riding the canoes to the lodge

After about 15 minutes we could see the lodge. When we arrived, we got out of the canoes and hiked up to the lodge. Note that the wooden seats in the canoes were not fastened down. Initially they were all turned parallel to one side so there was a walkway to the back of the canoe. As people got on they walked to the back and turned the seat crosswise to the hull and sat two on a seat. The boat filled from the back to the front.

Our first glimpse of the lodge
Our first glimpse of the lodge
Unloading the canoes
Unloading the canoes
Hiking up to the lodge
Hiking up to the lodge

Our rooms were quite nice. There was a bathroom with a shower. However, despite the high temperature and humidity there was no air conditioning – just a fan and a swimming pool. There was no TV, phone or wi-fi available. Our balcony provided a nice view of the fast-flowing Napo River. There were many beautiful flowers on the grounds.

Our bedroom
Our bedroom
View from our balcony
View from our balcony
Beautiful flowers
Beautiful flowers

Our first activity at the lodge was a visit to a butterfly farm. This involved leaving the lodge through a back entrance and walking through the village. As we walked along we say villagers drying cacao beans in the sun and plastering the walls of a newly built structure. It also allowed us to locate the small stores where you could purchase drinks at a fraction of the price charged by the lodge. The final part of the walk to the butterfly farm was down an isolated path.

Cacao beans drying in the sun
Cacao beans drying in the sun
Plastering a wall
Plastering a wall
Walk down isolated lane
Walk down isolated lane

At the butterfly farm a native guide, Clinker, explained about the life cycle of butterflies. He used the eggs, caterpillar, and adult of the owl-eyed butterfly as an example.

Clinker, our native guide
Clinker, our native guide
Owl-eye caterpillar
Owl-eye caterpillar
Owl-eyed adult
Owl-eyed adult

Some of the many species of butterflies in the butterfly farm.

Black with orange bar
Black with orange bar
Owl-eyed wings open
Owl-eyed wings open
blue-speckled
blue-speckled

After our visit to the butterfly farm, we visited a family that makes sculptures from balsa wood. The man carves the balsa wood while it is still quite moist. After rough carving the piece it is dried in an oven to harden the wood before his wife does the final sanding and painting.

Rough piece of balsa wood
Rough piece of balsa wood
Machete used for rough carving
Machete used for rough carving
Smaller knife for finer work
Smaller knife for finer work
Parrot carving roughed out
Parrot carving roughed out
Brush used for initial painting
Brush used for initial painting
Colors blended by hand
Colors blended by hand

In the evening we had a talk by an ecologist who talked about the value of the rainforests and their biodiversity as well as the threats to it.

Ecologist giving talk
Ecologist giving talk
Map of Amazon basin
Map of Amazon basin
Threats to the rainforest
Threats to the rainforest